Montfort: The Founder of Parliament, The Early Years 1229 to 1243 (Volume I)

Written by Katherine Ashe
Review by Debra Spidal

This is the first in a four-volume work based on the life of Simon de Montfort and sets the stage for his later accomplishments. Volume one begins with Montfort’s first attempt to reclaim his father’s English holdings and title from King Henry III. Suspected of spying for King Louis of France, he must overcome the objections of the Court. Montfort returns to France to renounce his French holdings and then returns to England to pledge his liege to Henry.

Montfort earns the recognition and trust of King Henry over several years. Granted his lands, titles, and the hand of Eleanor, the king’s sister, he eventually comes to serve Henry as Steward of England. Later, however, he has a falling out with Henry supposedly over money and flees to the continent with his wife and children. After many trials and tribulations, Montfort goes on Crusade. While in Palestine, he becomes known as a great warrior and strategist. In time he returns to France where he reconciles with Henry and joins him in his war against Louis for his French holdings.

This volume only covers the very early years of Montfort’s career and does not reach the point of his calling the first elected Parliament in 1265. Ashe has done an amazing job researching the life of Simon de Montfort and the 13th century. Her speculation about Edward’s paternity is based on an interpretation of King Henry’s recorded comments following Queen Eleanor’s first confession after Edward’s birth. It will be interesting to see how Ashe works this premise into the rest of the tale.

This is a thoroughly engaging narrative of the life of Simon de Montfort, and I look forward to reading the next volumes.